Adhering to a healthy diet before and after a colorectal cancer diagnosis may lower mortality risk, according to new findings published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Healio reports.

Scientists reviewed the data of 2,801 participants in the prospective Cancer Prevention Study-II Nutrition Cohort. Participants were cancer-free upon entry into the study and were later diagnosed with invasive nonmetastatic colorectal cancer.

Diets were evaluated based on concordance with Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention and prudent and Western dietary patterns.

The DASH diet is characterized by high intakes for fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and legumes/seeds, and low consumption of saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. The ACS diet calls for more than five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains than refined grains, and limited red and processed meat. The prudent diet is high emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish, while the Western diet is marked by a high intake of refined grains, red and processed meats, eggs, solid fats and salty snacks.

Pre-diagnosis, a higher ACS score was associated with reduced all-cause mortality and colorectal cancer-specific mortality. A pre-diagnosis Western diet, which is high in red meat and other animal products, was linked to higher all-cause mortality.

Post-diagnosis a higher ACS score and a higher DASH score were associated with a lower risk for all-cause mortality and colorectal-cancer-specific. Meanwhile, higher prudent dietary scores were inversely associated with decreased all-cause mortality.

Dietary improvements following cancer diagnosis resulted in a decreased risk of death. Among those who followed a poor diet pre-diagnosis improved DASH and prudent dietary pattern scores were linked to reduced colorectal-cancer–specific mortality.

Those with the highest ACS score after diagnosis had a 65 percent reduced risk for colorectal cancer death and a 38 percent reduced risk for death from any cause compared with those with the lowest ACS score.

“Dietary patterns reflective of high intakes of plant foods and low intakes of animal products before and after colorectal cancer diagnosis are associated with longer survival,” wrote the study’s authors. “These results suggest that a high-quality diet after diagnosis, even if poor before, may be associated with a lower risk of death.”

Click here to learn how a healthy diet and exercise improve survival in colorectal cancer.